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How to Decode Standardized Test Results

I think that most children shudder when they hear the word “test”. I get it. They weren’t something that I ever liked at school either. But I was a perfectionist and I was more scared of failing a test than anything else. I am personally not a big fan of standardized tests, though I know that they have their place.

“Sometimes the most brilliant and intelligent students do not shine on standardized tests because they do not have standardized minds.”

Diana Ravitch

I will admit that I did get my girls to do a standardized test at the end of 1st grade because I had allowed fears to creep in that what we were doing wasn’t working and that I was failing them in their education. They were then tested again at the end of 2nd grade even though they don’t HAVE to do one until the end of 3rd grade. 

Why? Has my stance changed on standardized tests? Not really. I still don’t like them when there is pressure put on the children about how they should be doing etc. But I have found them to be an effective tool for me! 

Students hand holding pencil writing selected choice on answer sheets and Mathematics question sheets. students testing doing examination. school exam

HOW TO USE STANDARDIZED TEST RESULTS

So, how do I make them work for me? We used the ITBS tests, also known as the IOWAs. I like these tests because they are more skills based rather than content based (like you would see in state “milestones” tests). Other tests that many homeschoolers will use are the Stanfords and the CAT 6 (California Achievement Test). I have administered the ITBS tests to many children over the years. It is one that I am comfortable with. 

The results you get have different sections to them. I honestly don’t look at the grade levels and national stanines for very long. We can take a bit too much stock in those and think “oh my child is advanced, we could skip a grade” but that won’t help your child. No child is really one true grade and it is best to look at it as “they are working well and developing the skills they need.”

What I find to be the most helpful is the section at the bottom that shows how many questions they got right or wrong in the different parts of the tests. This shows me if they have any holes so that I can plan to work on them in the coming school year. 

sample ITBS test results
sample ITBS test results

WHY MIGHT THERE BE SOME HOLES?

There can be a number of reasons why we see some “holes” in standardized test results. Different curricula will focus on different aspects and maybe your child hasn’t covered that yet. Maybe your child has struggled with a certain part and therefore needs some extra practice and review. You might have also delayed starting that grade level of a subject. These will all show holes but they are not detrimental. They can all be covered. 

I knew that one of my girls would struggle with “implicit meaning” as she is a very logical and literal thinker. So I was not surprised that it showed a lower score. But I was also surprised at how well she actually did. Going into this school year I have had more practice opportunities for implicit meaning. 

If your child has a learning disability or challenges then this will show on the test results, as any disability isn’t taken into account with the tests. The results simply show how they did in the test and how it lines up nationally. 

Don’t let numbers define your children. These tests do not define them. Use them as a helpful planning tool. If there are “holes” you can make sure they are filled before moving on with the next grade level of curriculum. We can standardized test results to our planning advantage. If you plan to do them every year then you can compare growth and whether or not your child is moving forward easily or needs some additional assistance in areas. 

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